The Bridgespan Group

Day 30: Ask yourself: What practices will I take away from the #30DayDonorChallenge? #GiveSmart

Throughout this journey, we have tried to offer simple, practical ways to keep great philanthropy top of mind. Our challenge has touched on many themes—connecting with others, increasing the impact of your dollars, and continuously improving (just to name a few). We thank our friends and partners for contributing to this effort, as well as for sharing the challenge with others in their networks.

For a full history of #30DayDonorChallenge, please see our archive.

Posted: 12/23/2011 9:00:30 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 29: Ask yourself: How can I improve my philanthropy over time? #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

A success-driven philanthropist wants to understand results and how to maximize them. Yet, given the complex problems philanthropy tackles, results are rarely black and white. So instead of focusing energy on proving your work makes a difference, focus on how you can improve over time. Find ways to gather candid feedback about how you can better contribute to your grantees’ success and deploy your other assets (relationships, expertise) to further impact.

How have you gathered feedback to learn and improve? For more thoughts on the topic, check out our article Getting Better Over Time.

Posted: 12/22/2011 9:00:40 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 28: Get specific: Articulate exactly what you want your philanthropy to accomplish. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

When asked “what are you trying to accomplish?” do you respond with broad, hopeful statements (like “curing cancer,” or “ending poverty,” or “stopping global warming”)? If so, you’ll need to get more specific because at that level, your goals are still too undefined (and therefore unattainable).

Don’t assume that a $10 million gift over five years, for example, will single-handedly transform an inner-city school district with an $800 million annual budget. This is one of the many “traps” that even the most capable and experienced philanthropists can fall into.

For an overview of common traps, check out our FAQ What Are the Five Most Common Traps I Should Avoid in My Philanthropy?

Posted: 12/21/2011 9:00:07 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 27: Share with another donor or grantee a philanthropy mistake you’ve made. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

In philanthropy as in most other areas of life, individuals and organizations tend to learn from two distinctly different experiences: what works well, and what does not work so well. Failure, in fact, is often a better teacher than success. Yet most philanthropists find it discomforting to acknowledge mistakes to others, especially if it may inadvertently implicate their grantees. It’s important to realize that other funders are struggling through similar decisions.

Help them make the most of their dollars by sharing your mistakes (and what you’ve learned from them). For more information on this topic, check out the Philanthropy Roundtable article by Peter Frumkin, Failure in Philanthropy: Toward a New Appreciation.

Posted: 12/20/2011 9:42:36 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 26: Put yourself in a grantee's shoes: Simulate the experience of working with you. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

How clear is your grantmaking process to those outside your foundation? By walking a mile in your grantees’ shoes, you’ll get an up-close look at your foundation’s strengths and opportunities for improvement. For example, if you viewed your website from a grantee’s perspective, is it clear what types of initiatives you do and do not fund? If you accept unsolicited proposal requests, is the procedure to apply for a grant clear?

Check out Project Streamline for suggestions on how to improve grant application and reporting practices.

Posted: 12/19/2011 9:10:18 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 25: Read a book that will inform your giving. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

In addition to connecting with others, it’s important to get smart behind the scenes. A number of excellent books are available to choose from.

To get started, check out Bridgespan co-founder and Give Smart co-author Tom Tierney’s philanthropy reading list (which includes Give Smart) at Philanthropy Roundtable: Five Books That Should Be in Every Donor’s Library.

Posted: 12/16/2011 9:01:15 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 24: Call an expert in your philanthropic area of interest. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

As you conduct research and connect with peers on a particular the issue, you'll likely encounter the names of a few key players in your field of interest. These players may be subject matter experts (e.g., academics, policy analysts, journalists) or donors (e.g., foundations, individual philanthropists).

When you know enough to have a short list of good questions you’d love to engage an expert on, why not pick up the phone?

Posted: 12/15/2011 9:00:02 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 23: Tell someone unexpected about your favorite gift/grant. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

Today’s tweet and post comes to us from Jason Franklin, Executive Director at Bolder Giving.

You can make an impact far beyond your financial contributions by sharing your giving stories with others. Today, tell a coworker, a friend, or even someone you meet at a cocktail party about your favorite gift/grant that you've made in the last year.

Need ideas on how to start the conversation? Check out the Bolder Giving Toolkit.

Posted: 12/14/2011 9:00:58 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 22: Invite another funder to join you in supporting a strong nonprofit. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

Many donors collaborate with other philanthropists to increase their impact. There are several ways that donors can work together, from informal information sharing (like conferences and donor forums) to more formal giving arrangements (like collaborating on a grantmaking strategy). If you fund a nonprofit you are particularly invested in, why not invite others to join you to boost its impact? To see an example of such a co-investment, check out The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation’s Growth Capital Aggregation Pilot.

Thank you to Jason Franklin, the Executive Director of Bolder Giving, for the inspiration behind today’s tweet—we look forward to his guest tweet and microblog tomorrow.

Posted: 12/12/2011 3:40:46 PM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 21: Ask another donor what his or her best recent funding decision was. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

Chances are that some of your peers share your philanthropic interests, and may have already done research or developed a point of view that might be helpful to you. In addition to the peers in your immediate network, there are a number of resources that can help you identify other philanthropists to connect with. Online sources such as the Million Dollar List and the Foundation Center allow you to find funders who share your philanthropic interests. You may also consider attending a conference or forum that brings together funders with similar interests.

Posted: 12/12/2011 9:00:52 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 20: Help a grantee build a sustainable funding strategy. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

Most nonprofit leaders have a clear vision for how they want to grow their organization. While they often spend enormous amounts of time fundraising to fuel their strategies, many are unsure how they will secure the money they need to fund their expansion. If a nonprofit you donate to lacks a long-term strategy around its fundraising, or needs help in this area, what can you do? Check out Finding Your Funding Model or read this blog on the topic to learn more.

Posted: 12/9/2011 9:00:06 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 19: Think about how you can use your balance sheet to create impact. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

Philanthropists are increasingly embracing principles and business practices from the private sector. One interesting opportunity may be to think about new ways you can use your endowment to drive both social and financial return. Check out Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisor’s report Mission-Related Investing for more information.

Posted: 12/8/2011 9:00:39 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 18: Make a connection: Schedule a call with a grantee board member. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

Nonprofit board members are typically passionate champions of the organizations that they serve, given that they freely donate their time, skills and, usually, money to the cause. Speaking with a board member will allow you to pressure test your own impressions of the organization, and learn more about how you can help. Check out our Board Member Interview Guide to learn more.

Posted: 12/7/2011 9:00:50 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 17: Invest in nonprofit overhead. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

Strong organizations require investment in “overhead” like installing new technology or hiring a talented senior team. Such investments would virtually be automatic for a growing for-profit, but are often deemed excessive within the nonprofit context. How can you help? Check out The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle or The 'Third Rail' of Nonprofits: Overhead to learn more.

Posted: 12/6/2011 9:00:32 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 16: Promote the work of your best grantees on Twitter or Facebook. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

In today’s world, more and more people are using the Internet to communicate with family, friends, and acquaintances. In this giving season, many nonprofits are trying to gain visibility with donors, so the next time you sign in to Twitter or Facebook, use it as an opportunity to promote the work of your grantees. Not only will this make them feel appreciated, but it might also connect them to new funders in your network.

Posted: 12/5/2011 9:00:01 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 15: Ask a grantee to name one thing you did last year that was frustrating. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

Given obvious power dynamics between grantees and donors, few grantees tend to voice their frustrations. For that reason, donors need to make a conscious decision to ask for feedback. It is only through constructive dialogue that grantees and donors can achieve the joint impact that they seek.


Posted: 12/2/2011 9:00:53 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 14: Ask a grantee—What can I do in the coming year to help? #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

If you really want to make sure your money is going as far as it can, it never hurts to ask what you can do to make that happen. Remember: As a donor, your grantees’ results are your results. Collaborating effectively with your grantees is a critical step on your journey from aspirations to real results.

Posted: 12/1/2011 9:00:49 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 13: Give money to another funder who is doing good work. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

Sometimes piggybacking off of another funder’s hard work makes a lot of sense. Consider supporting a funder you respect. The result? A simplified grant making process for you and the grantee, and the potential to deliver a higher-impact grant. You might even learn a thing or two about how another funder operates that could inform your own process.

Among the options: Consider working with a foundation, venture philanthropy firm, or donor advised fund in your area of interest.

Posted: 11/30/2011 9:00:56 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 12: Right-size the questions you ask potential grantees. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

We often hear from donors and grantees alike that the grantee “due diligence,” or research, process is either too burdensome or not rigorous enough. As you design your own process, be judicious with your requests. Keep in mind that responding to your requests can be a time-consuming, costly process for the nonprofit (just think of the hidden costs of multiple requests for newly-formatted information, for example).

So what is the best way to research a nonprofit organization you’re considering funding? The answer to that question depends on a number of factors, including how much you already know about the organization, the size of your grant, and its importance to the nonprofit, among other things. Check-out the video The True Cost of Running Nonprofits from GEO's SmarterGrantmaking Channel to learn more about the productive and counterproductive ways that grant makers contribute to or hinder nonprofit success.

Posted: 11/29/2011 9:00:36 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 11: The next time you’re asked to make a donation, ask three tough questions. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

When you’re known as “the generous philanthropist,” you can expect solicitations from a wide range of audiences, family, friends, and strangers alike. The trouble is, although many worthy causes exist, you only have limited amounts of time and money to devote to them.

The next time you are asked for a charitable solicitation, think of—and ask—three tough questions that can help both you and the potential grantee determine if a funding relationship is a good fit. Questions might involve the organization’s strategy and results, organization and operations, financials, or leadership. For more detail on how to research a nonprofit or what types of questions you might ask, see our Donor Decision Tool, which delivers a customized plan to guide your research into nonprofits you're thinking of funding.

Posted: 11/28/2011 9:00:40 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 9: Thanksgiving Day—Share a story about your values. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to not only reflect on what you are grateful for, but also to share these reflections with your family. As you are preparing turkey and mashed potatoes, think about a story that you would like to share during your Thanksgiving meal.

Posted: 11/24/2011 9:00:59 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 8: Ask your spouse or kids for advice on where to give. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

Philanthropy offers an exciting opportunity to bring your loved ones together to support a common cause. However, be prepared: It’s rare to find a family where all members are universally passionate about any one cause.

Posted: 11/23/2011 9:00:46 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 7: Reflect on the donations you've made that have been most meaningful and why. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

All philanthropy is personal. Reflecting on which gifts you've made that have meant the most to you might be one way to help pinpoint what we call the “anchors” for your philanthropy. Defining these anchors—the people, places, problems, pathways, and philosophies you really care about—will help you narrow your choices and describe (in broad strokes) the impact you’d like your philanthropy to have. Check-out Clarifying Your Aspirations to learn more.

Posted: 11/22/2011 9:00:29 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 6: Thank someone who has been influential in your philanthropy. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

The “someone” who comes to mind might be a peer, mentor, friend, or close family member. Let that person know that his or her guidance has been important in your decision making, and the ways in which it has led you to more effective philanthropy.

Posted: 11/21/2011 9:00:45 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 5: Ask a grantee for feedback. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

The ability to work effectively with your grantees is the fundamental operating requirement in the journey from aspirations to real impact. Let’s face it: There is an enormous power imbalance between donors (who have money) and nonprofits (who seek it). Donors may often talk about “partnering” with grantees, but “partnership” isn’t usually the first word that comes to a nonprofit leader’s mind. So it’s important to know whether your relationships with grantees are partnerships—or train wrecks?

For more on how to bolster your relationships with your grantees, click here.

Posted: 11/18/2011 9:00:53 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 10: Plan a visit to the beneficiaries your philanthropy supports. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

Instead of "Black Friday," think "Giving Friday. On the day when millions are heading to the malls to kick off their holiday shopping, how about starting a new tradition? Plan a visit to the beneficiaries your philanthropy supports—it will be a learning opportunity for both you and your family.

Posted: 11/17/2011 2:20:01 PM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 4: Donate your time, in addition to your money, by volunteering at a grantee. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

Financial support is the most common and straightforward form of giving. However, it would be a mistake to think that money is the only resource at your disposal. To support a grantee, for example, you can lend your own expertise to the organization, such as legal or financial knowledge. Or you can simply show up and volunteer for a day or two. The bottom line: Giving shouldn’t be a “one size fits all” proposition.

For more information on how to support grantees with more than money, click here.

Posted: 11/17/2011 9:16:16 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 3: Recommend a great grantee to another funder. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

The number-one reason people give is because they were asked. If one of your grantees is getting terrific results, help spread the word to someone who might be making their first donation this season.

Posted: 11/16/2011 9:01:31 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 2: Tweet (or email) “thank you” to a grantee. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

Too often, we assume that others know we appreciate their great work. That is why, perhaps, so many good deeds go un-thanked. Grantees are often the ones on the ground, doing most (if not all) of the heaviest lifting. As a show of your appreciation this holiday season, tweet a public thank-you note to one of your grantees. (And yes, if you don’t use Twitter, you can write an email instead). We are sure that the grantee will appreciate it.

For more on how to bolster your relationships with your grantees, read our new publication, The Donor-Grantee Trap.

Posted: 11/15/2011 10:14:49 AM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments

Day 1: Double a grant to an exceptional grantee (without being asked). #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

Donors often wonder whether their grantees can do more with less. But how about giving your best-performing grantees a chance to do more with more? Could doubling their grant result in more than twice the benefit?

It’s worth finding out today.

Posted: 11/14/2011 12:21:10 PM by Diann Daniel | with 0 comments